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Toyota Puts Brakes on EV Plans, Builds Just 100 Units of iQ EV

By - Source: VB | B 27 comments

One of the pioneers of electric technology in cars is now reconsidering the viability of all-electric cars.

The Toyota Prius was not the first hybrid vehicle on the U.S. market - that honor goes to the Honda Insight - but it is still the poster child of hybrids and electric technology overall. It has taken Toyota quite a while to make the jump from hybrid to all-electric and now it appears that it may not be going all in with all-electric.

The news comes as the company is launching its iQ EV small full electric vehicle, which was originally planned to sell thousands of units, but is now being reduced to a production run of just 100. The iQ EV, which sells as the Scion iQ in combustion engine form as the Toyota iQ in Europe and Asia, as well as the Aston Martin Cygnet in a fancied up version, will get a 47 kW electric motor and a driving range of "about" 53 miles. The range is a manufacturer estimate and could still drop in the EPA rating.

Even for an electric car, the range is disappointing and renders the car useless for most scenarios, even for local purpose. According to the Federal Highway Association, U.S. drivers cover an average of 13,476 miles per year, or 36 miles per day. So, on average, the iQ EV fits this scenario very well. However, while females appear do drive only 27 miles per day on average, males drive 43 miles per day, coming within 15 percent of their driving limit that day. Throw in an extra run to Target and you may be in trouble.

"The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge," said Toyota’s vice chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada. As a result, the company said it will be focusing on hybrids and only offer its RAV EV in a production run of 2,600 units. Of course, range and charging is a big deal for EVs - and even Tesla's $100,000+ S sedan with a range of 265 miles is not exactly what we would call a car to take across the country due to its charging time and available charging stations. However, with a range of just 53 miles, it does not take extensive business analysis to figure out that such a car will not sell in huge numbers.

 

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  • 6 Hide
    nforce4max , September 26, 2012 12:13 AM
    I really do want something that is truly economical to use, better yet no gas at all. However the real reason why people won't buy cars like this is because of all the idiots that buy two ton trucks that drive them over 80-115mph. People in my state drive their trucks so badly that when they show up at the shop for a oil change the oil comes out like pudding.
  • 3 Hide
    frombehind , September 26, 2012 12:29 AM
    well of course they want to keep selling their old cars instead of investing mountains of cash into researching new tech, and then to top it off, a well-built electric motor will last so much longer then a gas engine... again a loss overall for car manufactures. Now just imagine what would happen, if oil companies subsidized car makers to instead of building electric vehicles, to build "better and more efficient" gasoline vehicles.
  • -3 Hide
    jdog2pt0 , September 26, 2012 12:34 AM
    The technology just isn't there yet, and I don't know if anyone is to blame or not. I would imagine that if all the energy that went into the mobile device market, went into furthering transportation technology, we would all be using transporters by now (exaggerating but you get my point). However, this slow development pace leaves me genuinely scared. I worry about what our oil situation will be in the not too distant future. If they don't get the move on, we're all fucked.
  • 3 Hide
    twelch82 , September 26, 2012 1:10 AM
    All-electric cars are really only practical for people who own houses and own another gasoline-powered car as a backup. In that scenario, I can see owning an electric car as being a beneficial move, but it definitely limits prospective customers a bit.
  • 2 Hide
    DRosencraft , September 26, 2012 1:17 AM
    Detroit experimented with EV cars in the 70s and 80s. They got little response from consumers so they scrapped it. Every time anyone brought it up again, it was shot down because they didn't want to waste money on it again. Fast forward to today, the tech for these cars is much better, but far from perfect. The rate of degradation on the battery is relatively high if you are constantly charging them instead of only charging when it depletes. However, it's not at such a staggering rate that you can't use it - sort of how a gasoline engine becomes less efficient over time because of buildup in the engine.

    Add on to that the fact no one wants to pay for the infrastructure spending for gas station like charge stations and the fact that charging the battery is not quick. This limits range for many. If you live in a city, chances are you live in an apartment building. And if you live in an apartment building, there's no garage for you to park in. You're not gonna drive your car upstairs to plug it in overnight, or hang an extension cord out your window. EVs do not have a healthy infrastructure to work with.

    Finally, people are simply skeptical. They're terrified of a high electric bill, not realizing that relative to their gas bill it will be equal if not lower (electricity per kWh to fully charge an EV like Toyota's is less than a full-tank of gas for a comparable car).

    All this stuff combines to make EVs difficult to sell. They're expensive to build, and to sell them you have to make price them very low, therefore making for low profit margins. As a company, that's not gonna cut for shareholders. It may be worth it for regular people, or various special interests, those concerned about the environment, but in the end Toyota, like any other for-profit company, is going to make decisions that make them money. And this one doesn't seem to make much money. You can argue they should stick to it longer, but truth is that wouldn't work in the end. They aren't designed for going full-bore on EV projects, until EVs actually gain more favor with the general public.
  • -2 Hide
    Alphi , September 26, 2012 1:23 AM
    nforce4maxI really do want something that is truly economical to use, better yet no gas at all. However the real reason why people won't buy cars like this is because of all the idiots that buy two ton trucks that drive them over 80-115mph. People in my state drive their trucks so badly that when they show up at the shop for a oil change the oil comes out like pudding.


    i think you misread the article.. it has a range of 53 miles not a top speed of 53 miles.. one thing electric vehicles have over combustion engines is faster acceleration
  • -4 Hide
    okibrian , September 26, 2012 1:31 AM
    The problems are range and price. But I'll save on gas, right? Yes, but then you have to replace that battery every 3 years or so at around 4-5k. Maintenance also cost a lot more as well. We can talk green all we want, but the green that really matters most to people is the green that sits in my wallet.
  • -5 Hide
    joytech22 , September 26, 2012 1:40 AM
    EDIT: Repost.. Didn't show up at first. Thumb this down.
  • 2 Hide
    joytech22 , September 26, 2012 1:41 AM
    Well 53 miles wouldn't get me to work and back.. So.. well it would kind of make owning it useless considering just to have the damn thing registered for road use here is $1000 a year.
  • -5 Hide
    nebun , September 26, 2012 2:43 AM
    all electric don't make any sense at all...why drive with the fear of not making it where you are trying to go?...especially if your are going to use your AC and have extra passengers...Hybrids are the future....all electric are a FAD which hopefully will fade away very soon, plus they are way to expensive
  • 2 Hide
    kyuuketsuki , September 26, 2012 2:55 AM
    I think people way overestimate how many miles they drive in a day. This car would actually be a perfect supplement to just drive to work and back, plus an errand or two on the weekends. Any lengthier trips, or side-trips when the EV is still juicing up, can use a fall-back ICE car.

    It'll be nice when battery tech evolves to the point that EVs get better range, can juice up in a matter of minutes, and are competitively priced. I have a feeling people will still make excuses even then.

    Hybrids are definitely not the future. They're a stop-gap until EVs get better, much as hybrid HDDs are a stop-gap until SSDs (or whatever replaces them) get cheap enough.
  • 1 Hide
    CaedenV , September 26, 2012 2:58 AM
    okibrianThe problems are range and price. But I'll save on gas, right? Yes, but then you have to replace that battery every 3 years or so at around 4-5k. Maintenance also cost a lot more as well. We can talk green all we want, but the green that really matters most to people is the green that sits in my wallet.

    The battery replacement is not as bad as I thought it would be. I have been doing some research on this lately as I am looking towards having a total 'solar home' over the next 10 years or so, and the thought hit me that if I am going to have any surplus energy, then I should use it to power an electric car. From the little research I have done the battery replacement is actually closer to ~8-12 years if you treat it right and let the battery properly deplete before recharging it, and doing full charges instead of partials.
    Maintenance is also cheaper on an all electric car, because there are less things that can go wrong with it. electric motors are MUCH simpler machines than engines are, and it is quite literally a battery, a variable resistor, and then electric motors. That is your drive train. No clutch system, no differential, no gear box or transmission, no oil changes, no coolant, there are brakes but as they are not used as often they need to be maintained much less, etc. Very little can go wrong, and what parts are used are relatively simple and the only reason they are expensive is because they are not mass produced in the same quantity as traditional engine parts. There is some complication with energy recapture systems, the addition of solar to power accessories, etc. But even then it is still an overall much simpler design than a gas car.

    Truth be told there are 2 major barriers to the electric car:
    1) Batteries suck; they are slow to charge, they are heavy as hell, they are hazardous if they break in an accident, and they wear down over time. Battery tech is improving, but they really need to look into more of a fuel cell electric vehicle. It is more difficult (but not hard) to charge the cells, but they are a much denser energy, they could be fairly simple to swap out or refill at a gas station if they were standardized, they are less hazardous/risky in an accident, and they do not wear down over time. It is not a perfect answer, but it would be a pretty good one.
    CAFE standards also don't help the battery front. They require better MPG (and eMPG) over a fleet, while also requiring other safety things which make cars heavier. If cheap cars were as light as they were 20 years ago we would be seeing much better MPG in traditional cars (I have read some optimistic guesses of ~60mpg, and more realistic ones of ~40mpg for a mid sized car instead of the subcompact that we see getting those now). Electric cars already have weight against them due to the battery pack, and adding an ever increasing feature and safety weight to them do not help things.

    2) there is no infrastructure yet. Laying high amperage electric everywhere would require insane amounts of materials and labor. I don't believe charging stations everywhere is the answer, but even if it is, it would not be an overnight change. Also, if a significant portion of the population replaced gas with electric, then the demand would make electricity much more expensive as power companies would have to upgrade their infrastructure and power plants to keep up.
    The other alternative and dream is to have a solar/electric car that charges all day in the parking lot (would not be an option for everyone, but it would suit a lot of us pretty well). Also, solar cells last a really long time (~25 years), which means that the only thing you would have to pay for would be the battery every 10 years, plus 'normal' maintenance, which is not much on an EV. If solar got really good then the battery would only be needed as a buffer for the solar panel, and for night driving; If things ever got that good, then it would mean that they could get by with a much smaller/lighter battery, and it would solve a lot of problems. But obviously solar power is not there yet, and it would take the surface area of ~4-6 cars right now in order to charge a car throughout the day. It would be the perfect answer... if only the solar tech were there behind it.
    There are other 'passive charging' ideas floating around, but it does not take a whole lot of research to realize that those are simply impractical to put them everywhere, and they are so extremely inefficient that they would just waste power. Great for small stuff like the Nokia 920 though.


    But ya, EVs are simply not ready right now for mass consumption. But if things keep moving the way they are, then I think we will see some appealing mainstream EV cars within the next 10 years, and I would bet that they would become 'popular' with some cheap daily driver style cars within the next 20.
  • 0 Hide
    CaedenV , September 26, 2012 3:04 AM
    KyuuketsukiI think people way overestimate how many miles they drive in a day. This car would actually be a perfect supplement to just drive to work and back, plus an errand or two on the weekends. Any lengthier trips, or side-trips when the EV is still juicing up, can use a fall-back ICE car.It'll be nice when battery tech evolves to the point that EVs get better range, can juice up in a matter of minutes, and are competitively priced. I have a feeling people will still make excuses even then.Hybrids are definitely not the future. They're a stop-gap until EVs get better, much as hybrid HDDs are a stop-gap until SSDs (or whatever replaces them) get cheap enough.

    iDunno. I drive ~20mi to work, and 20mi back, and then another 5-10 miles for errands/food/socializing just about every day. I am sure I could push the grand total under 40mi per day if I had to... but it means doing a full charge every single day, and that battery is not going to stay at a 43mi range year after year either, and I think I would have a problem once that range dipped even the slightest bit.
    I am all for electric, but I dont want to have to charge it every night, only every 2-3 nights.
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 26, 2012 3:08 AM
    Plug in electric vehicles are not the future due to their current limited range and time it take to recharge.

    Petroleum (gas/diesel) hybrids are only a stop gap measure to reducing the consumption of oil. All those people buying the Chevy Volt say they haven't filled up in a long time but, they've got short commutes where the gasoline engine doesn't get a chance to fire up. However, if you drove that same Volt across the country in a week it would fare no better in gas mileage than the Toyota Prius. Here's another fun fact; gasoline has a limited shelf life of about 45 days or so before it starts to break down on a molecular level, even if it is just sitting in a sealed fuel tank. Just imagine the kind of damage that will be done to an engine from constantly using stale fuel.

    Personally, I feel hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are the only thing that will give us the range and convenience of a petroleum powered vehicle while being fueled by a renewable resource. Sure the current processes to extracting/reforming hydrogen are expensive, however, as more and more refineries start outputting hydrogen the costs will come down. There are many wells-to-wheels analysis' that show hydrogen as a cleaner energy source. Here's another fun fact; a local hospital (Kaiser Permanente in South Sacramento, CA) used a hydrogen fuel cell (I forget what type) as its primary power source for its ICU for a number of years. This type of fuel cell produced a massive amount of heat that it needed to be water cooled. The resulting hot water was then channeled throughout the hospital through its hot water taps.
  • 1 Hide
    unksol , September 26, 2012 5:14 AM
    This is why the volt is so good. enough electric for most town driving. Good mpg for cross country. If you go all electric you NEED a second car. Which may be practical for families.

    As was said you almost need to own a house for any plug in... But then if you are putting money into a new cad before a house. Well... You have bigger issues
  • 0 Hide
    slabbo , September 26, 2012 6:56 AM
    i'm pretty sure they can extend that range if they wanted to. bigger or more efficient battery? that car looks small enough to be running solely on solar if ya ask me. The roof of it should be made from solar cells which can constantly be recharging the batteries.
  • -1 Hide
    jj463rd , September 26, 2012 7:21 AM
    Electric cars will always be a failure because of the high inefficiency caused by their wasteful heavy mass.
    Most of the energy transporting the driver,passengers (less common) and small cargo is used up by the heavy mass of the vehicle.
    On the other hand electric motorized super aerodynamic low cross section Velomobiles weighing under 150 pounds or so with carbon fiber composite and/or Kevlar bodies (and just as safe as those Formula 1 cars) are just the opposite with mostly a mass ration inversion being extremely energy efficient and they should be the future electric single occupancy or possibly passenger vehicles instead.
  • 0 Hide
    pilsner , September 26, 2012 7:56 AM
    I guess most singles cannot afford a second car, either for money or space reasons, probably both. And a pure electric car simply does not work if you use it to drive to work AND still want to go visit some friends in the evening. Both because of the range and because if you come home at 1am or so from your friends, there's not enough time to charge it up again before you need to drive to work in the morning. It would only work if you ONLY use it to drive to work and use something else (2nd car, bicycle, bus) for everything else. And that's not what people want, either because it's too expensive or because of laziness. Second car for a family, purely for shopping? Sure, that would work. But for that it's still too expensive, plus many people can't really recharge an electric car if they have to park their cars on the street somewhere.
  • 2 Hide
    doive1231 , September 26, 2012 8:33 AM
    How ironic that the country that ends in "I can" and put men on the moon has so many people against green tech. They are culturally attached to oil and it's currently cheap. They've just realised how much oil they buy from overseas, let's hope they see the opportunities for jobs and investment from having vehicles like this. However, the oil lobby in the US is strong, as elsewhere, and is probably only just getting going.
  • 0 Hide
    ubercake , September 26, 2012 12:34 PM
    Funny... Hybrids were all the rage when the economy tanked and governments were giving out free money for EV research. Once Obama announced the end of government alternative energy funding, GM announced the end of the Volt program. Now we see Toyota pulling back in this area as well (there are Toyota assembly plants in the U.S.).
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